The next stop on the season ten American Idol audition tour is Nashville, the state capital of Tennessee, which the show is visiting for its second time. The so-called ‘Music City USA’ is the home of the Grand Ole Opry – which I will now refer to as the GOO for convenience – which Wikipedia tells us is “a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee that has presented the biggest stars of the genre since 1925”.
Membership of the GOO is considered to be one of country music’s highest accolades, a bit like being awarded your medal of participation at your school sports day. Their number includes, as
Kermit the Frog Ryan Seacrest proudly tells us, season four winner Carrie Underwood, now a five-time Grammy Award winner, the recipient of six awards from the Country Music Association, and the proud owner of a Blue Peter badge. Okay, I’m sorry. As you will know by now, I don’t like country music. Suffice to say that being inducted into the GOO is a big, big deal.
Anyway, the Nashville auditions are being held at the Ryman Auditorium – I thought they sold stationery? – which was formerly the permanent home of the GOO. It’s a pretty cool setting. Here are my six of the best (and worst) Music City highlights and lowlights.
(Apologies for the low quality of the video – best I could find.)
We started with Christine McCaffrey, a high-pitched dental assistant who sounded as if she had spent a little too long working with nitrous oxide and sang like a cartoon character. A tone-deaf one. She ‘sang’ I Hope You Dance by Leanne Womack, and to say she was out of tune would be putting it mildly. (Seriously, my shower singing is better – and that’s saying something.) She seemed genuinely surprised to be rejected, to the extent that she was convinced S-Ty had said yes to her. He really hadn’t. A nice enough girl, but utterly self-deluded and really not someone you ever want to see near a dental drill.
Judges’ decision: No. Prediction: Never to be seen again, except possibly for use as a dog whistle.
Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin
We have seen people audition in pairs before – twins, sisters, friends – but this was a new twist. Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin were exes who sang together and still co-habited, even though she now has a new boyfriend (who tagged along to the audition). Awkward, much? She was all mustard keen, he was more sauerkraut – as Ryan discovered:
Ryan: Are you friends?
Rob: At this point, not really.
Anyhow, they started off by doing a duet of The Bee Gees‘ To Love Somebody which showcased their contrasting voices perfectly. (“You don’t know what it’s like to love somebody the way I love you” – oh, the irony.) Both were technically good singers – Chelsee’s voice was smooth but bland, whereas Rob’s was huskier with some more interesting tones. Neither were exceptional, but both went through. Outside, Chelsee’s new boyfriend looked like he really wanted to kill Rob. Hollywood Week should be fun.
Judges’ decision: Yes to both. Prediction: Both will be flushed out during Hollywood Week. Expect arguments, and possibly a fight with Chelsee’s boyfriend.
Adrienne Beasley certainly stood out from the crowd, and in a good way. A black girl adopted by white farmers, she brought a lovely soul vibe to Lady Antebellum‘s American Honey. Great tone, great personality, and a shoo-in to Hollywood. I could even forgive the fact it was a country song – that’s how good she was.
LaToya ‘Younique’ Moore
LaToya ‘Younique’ Moore went onto stage all brash and cocky, calling herself a recording artist and brandishing her CD. She left crushed, having made a complete horlicks of Tamara Savage‘s When I Close My Eyes. But she departs with my special award, The Sick Bucket of Delusionary Vomit™, for actually believing she could sing. She said:
This has been my dream for a long time.
Her dream, our nightmare. As S-Ty said, “definitely unique”. It was like listening to a high-pitched pneumatic drill.
Judges’ decision: No. Prediction: Can be found on a street corner somewhere, paying people to take a copy of her CD.
Another classic entry in the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ category, Matt Dillard looked like your typical hayseed, complete with the hat. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his bio piece which revealed his family had taken in 700 foster children in 23 years, other than “Whaaa?!?” (Do the maths – that’s an average of one a fortnight.) And then he opened his mouth,and out came Josh Groban‘s You Raise Me Up – and, rough and unrefined though his voice was, it almost gave me goosebumps. J-Lo said no, but the boys said yes. He is certainly one of those contestants who you would mark down for a potential ‘journey’, but whether he will travel a long road or just be a rabbit caught in the Hollywood headlights remains to be seen. Past experience suggests the latter.
Judges’ decision: Yes. Prediction: A rabbit in the headlights in Hollywood Week, and a sad departure for a singer with tremendous potential.
15-year old Lauren Alaina idolised her older cousin Holly, who developed a brain tumour for which she had to undergo both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She sang Faith Hill‘s Like We Never Loved At All and then Aerosmith‘s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, and sounded like a singer who has been singing professionally for years. Amazing pitch, tone and control – in many ways reminiscent of a young Kelly Clarkson – and with bundles of personality to boot. Now, 15-year old whisky is mature but 15-year old teenagers aren’t supposed to sound this mature. In one fell swoop she justified the producers’ decision to lower the minimum age to 15. Pencil her in alongside Chris Medina at the head of the pack.
Judges’ decision: Yes. Prediction: Vying with Chris Medina as the early favourites to be the overall winner.
And finally, a few honourable mentions:
Brooke Shields lookalike Stormi Henley was the winner of Miss Teen USA in 2009. She was competent, but J-Lo thought her voice wasn’t big enough. (I was inclined to agree.) However, once S-Ty and R-Jack had picked their tongues up off the floor long enough to say “yes”, Stormi and her impossibly white and perfect teeth were on their way to Hollywood.
Sometimes big things come in small packages. Kameela Merricks was a pint-sized five-foot-two, and she certainly had a big voice. But foghorns are big too. She attempted to sing Chaka Khan‘s Sweet Baby. Sweet Jesus was more like it. Mercifully, the judges sent her packing.
A nervous Jackie Wilson sang Aretha Franklin‘s Until You Come Back and was in no way overwhelmed by the original. S-Ty said “she sang that song like she wrote it” and R-Jack gave her a “one million per cent yes” – which is only one-hundredth of what he gave Scott Dangerfield in the previous episode. She was excellent, but I wasn’t sure she was quite as good as the judges were raving about. Still, we had that one genius moment after her audition when she snogged the old fella outside who we had all assumed was her father – but was in fact her boyfriend.
And, finally finally, what about the masked guy who looked like an escapee from the Blue Man Group and auditioned with A Moment Like This? What was that about?!?
Next week: Austin, Texas.
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Link: American Idol website